Repeated tractor-trailer incidents at a local railroad crossing — including one trailer smashed by a train in 2017 — has led the city of Locust Grove to evaluate possible options with Norfolk Southern. The city council will discuss an agreement to close the railroad crossing during its meeting on Monday, October 5.
In addition to closing the Bowden Street crossing, the city will also discuss closing the Pine Grove Road crossing in exchange for the railroad’s cooperation on two grade-separated crossings in the future.
It is believed that GPS guidance is the greatest contributing factor in the most recent failed crossings, and has involved tractor-trailers traveling both westbound towards I-75 and eastbound into a residential area. Closing the crossing is the only guaranteed way to stop the GPS issues.
Previous efforts to remedy the issue include extensive signage advising tractor-trailers of the low-grade crossing — adding more following the 2017 crash — and constructing a large commercial-vehicle right-hand turn lane off Bowden Street. Despite these efforts, the issue has continued to occur causing traffic back-ups on Georgia 42 and delays for the railroad while wreckers remove the stuck trailer.
Some residents have suggested height poles be installed on either side of the crossing as an alternative to closing the crossing. The city shared the following response on social media in September regarding height poles:
“The issue with [height poles] is the placement of height poles on 42 or at the crossing would cause drivers to hit the poles into oncoming traffic on SR 42 or onto the tracks themselves.”
If the city council approves the closure, Norfolk Southern will close the railroad crossing at Bowden Street and install barricades on either side at no cost to Locust Grove. The railroad would also pay to the city $65,000 for the closure.
Staff are working on the final touches before releasing a Request for Proposals (RFP) to study constructing grade-separated crossings in the city. The city will work with Norfolk Southern to finalize the locations for these crossings, with the two likely locations to be the intersections of state route 42 at Bill Gardner Parkway and state route 42 at Marketplace Blvd.
In a draft agreement between the city and railroad, the two parties also agree to cooperate on possible reconfigurations and relocations of other existing crossings if such work could improve vehicular traffic flow while preserving safe railroad crossing.